Sermon – 12/8/2019

Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019
Growing a LOVE Disciple

Luke (21:5-19) shares dire predictions of utter LOSS… destruction of governments and beloved temples and betrayals. He stresses that God will prevail not governments or buildings. Isaiah 12 softens this message with hope. Although you, God, were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.
This is a time of worry and concern. Every fear seems to revolve around loss: Our churches are losing membership, our Pastor is leaving, our cherished old churches are expensive to keep up, and even the National Methodist church may change. Our District Resource Training last Saturday offered a new way to think about this problem: Mike Breen suggested: If you try to build the church, you will rarely get disciples. But if you make disciples, you will always get the church.
Dr. Teel presented at a RISEM Resource Conference on Growing LOVE Disciples. What an interesting thought. I had this image of me planted deep in the earth and slowly popping up until I was a mature LOVE Disciple. What is meant by a Love Disciple? We know that a Disciple is a student and follower of Christ. When I googled Love Disciple, it referred me to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John 13:34-35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” While it is clear that we are to Love, true love is often difficult to do. What stages of development does a student of Jesus’ Love go through to become a Love disciple? In 1Corinthians 13 Paul talks that the first stage is being like a child and then growing into a man. Seeing things unclearly from the outside and growing to see
Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019

things with greater insight from the insight. In my attempt to understand the stages of growth of being a Love Disciple, I decided to use the framework of child development since this is my area of expertise. So, I’d like to share the story of Me and my growth as a LOVE Disciple.
Piaget, a Child Development specialist, shares that during early infancy, babies are extremely egocentric. The infant has no concept that the world exists separate from his very restricted perspective. The baby’s caregiver and his food are all there in the world revolving around him, even though he doesn’t see them. The baby I am working with now is at this stage. I love, that he will look at me intensely with the most delighted look on his face. I’ll make a noise and he will laugh. This is LOVE. But then the little guy will shut his eyes and start screaming. He wants food and he wants it now.
I was like this as new Love Disciple. I felt unbelievable love and commitment to God through my Baptism. My baptism took place at the age of 13 years after years of worrying that I would die and go to hell before I could get up the courage to be baptized. When I rose out of the cold lake after a minute of oxygen deprivation, I felt truly washed clean. Dr. Teel encourages us to revisit why we became a Christian and joined the church.
I was now washed clean and ready to follow Jesus. I loved my God intensely. He believed everything that I did. I read the Bible and found passages that confirmed my views. It came as a shock when I realized that others didn’t view God and His word in the same way that I did. Learning to Love your church family is not easy but this is where Discipleship starts. So like the baby, I had bouts when I was able to
Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019

feel intense Love, and I also continued to wrestle with loving others who disagreed with me. I worked on growing as a disciple in this stage by becoming comfortable with greeting others, getting out of my comfort zone. I joined a committee and continued to grow through bible study and really listening to the sermon and the words of the songs during worship.
The second stage of social-emotional development occurs when babies are around 8-9 months of age. They develop object permanence, according to Piaget. This is the knowledge of the continued existence of objects even when they are not directly perceived. The baby now senses that his mother is separate from him and when she leaves the room, he cries as a way to keep connected to her. During this second stage of Discipleship, I was struggling to reconnect with God. I questioned whether God was really there with me, but I continued to study the Bible, learned how to pray and reached out to my community to show love.
During this stage of my development, I decided that I wanted to foster a child who was at risk and 7-year-old Debbie joined our family. I was surprised that I had a difficult time loving this child. I had taught my children to love and respect diversity. She had been brought up to hate and curse others. Debbie was with us
for a year and I grew to care for her, but after a year, I told the social worker that I wouldn’t be able to keep her until she aged out.
Many years later, I had another big change. My marriage had ended, my children were almost grown and my Why to God, was… Why have you turned away from me! God answered me shortly. On a very
Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019

emotionally traumatic day, I was packing pictures preparing to leave a house that I loved and a business that I loved that I did out of my home. I had to flee to our rental house for it was no longer safe for my children and I to stay in our home. The doorbell rang, and there was Debbie. I hadn’t seen her in ten years; she was now 18. She hugged me and said, “I love you Mom. I just wanted to thank you for the year you gave me. “ So while I was aware of my separateness from God, God’s Love of me was never far from me. How powerful my inadequate Love for Debbie was because it was done through my love for God. This was a stage where I was growing as a LOVE Disciple, by showing love to those who I found difficult to love. We are great as a church family at reaching out with compassion through our thrift store and pumpkin patch and on Sunday. But the true test that our love is growing is shown in the way that we talk honestly and deal with difficult issues with each other. So in this second stage of development, I worked on deepening my church family relationships. Rather than standing in front of God and stating, “ Look what I did to honor you “ I began to mentor others to do project while I stood in the background. Dr. Teel suggests that when we reach out to have a Love Conversation, we remember these steps as a way to be truly present: I am Here (arms out) I Hear (ear), I See (eyes) I Feel (Heart) YOU. So, I continued to donate food, but I also looked for ways to love those in need in my community.
The Third stage of a child’s development, according to Erikson, is being an independent, autonomous being who has absorbed the moral behaviors of a mature person. I now feel close to God and my actions are done as part of God, not as a representative of God. This is a time
Tracy Jaekel, Ed.D. 12/8/2019
when I learned to be an Intentional Love Disciple. As I slowly matured in this stage, I have begun to pray more intentionally. I praise God, tell Him my problems and ask for guidance and then look for His answer. I do His work in the world; I plan before I act making sure that What I am doing is in sync with the Why and How of Growing others as Disciples of Love.
I had an experience recently that is an example of this. I had decided that I wanted to do volunteer work with babies addicted to drugs. I had called many places but most didn’t even bother to call me back. This work brings me great joy and I felt it was something that God wanted me to do. In frustration, I asked Him to show me what he wanted me to do. The very next day, Susan, our lay leader, said “ Tracy, I met this woman last night and she told me that she wants to foster a baby addicted to drugs but needs other people to help her.” Unlike when on my own I made the decision to take a foster child, this time I intentionally asked God for guidance in a specific area and he clearly answered. God sends people to us everyday to show us the way ….we just need to be looking. I’ve found at this third stage, that using the spiritual gifts God has given me brings me great joy, especially when I take the time to ask him how he wants me to use them.
Rather than worrying about bringing in new people, what if we focused on developing ourselves into Intentional LOVE disciples who go out, create new relationships with others and bring them home to our church family. This will enable our church home to flourish in a new, powerful and perhaps, unexpected way.